I am currently working on a science fiction story that is planned to span three or four books. It has been a lot of fun to write so far (the first book is in the editing oven, the second one is half drafted. More on this in June). Because of this, I’m using Aeon Timeline to keep my lore organised and to make sure I have a well-established timeline that actually stands up to scrutiny. While scrivener is excellent for the narrative it has no built-in mind-map or timeline tools, Aeon is literally the opposite.
I have been slowly populating my timeline with the events from the stories history and plotting some of its future. In the middle of all this, I have been adding the actual narrative events in the ‘current’ era of the timeline. The header image up there is the “subway” map. It takes the events as I have plotted them in the ‘spreadsheet view’ and then overlays the interaction from the ‘relationships view’ and it’s automatically generated. Now, I have used a purple marker there to cover up my actual character names and event titles because I assume that people who read this blog may also read my released work and I don’t want any pesky spoilers.
We can take the same information and use it to populate the mind-map. As you can probably guess from the image it’s a cluster fuck and, while very entertaining to me, it’s not useful, not really. However, if I were to populate it will one character as a focus with only what that character interacts with, it would be way more use that “lol – all the things!”
Thankfully Aeon Timeline allows me to have as many mind-maps as I want. I can enjoy my cluster fuck while having a far more reasonable and useful focused mind map.
The thing that infuriates me however is that I can’t sync my Aeon while I have Scrivener open. This means I’m either working in Scrivener OR Aeon, never both. One bad placed sync and I could find myself having to restore my “.scriv” backup. Also, if I remove a narrative folder in Aeon, it removed it in Scrivener, which isn’t really what I want. If anything, I want Aeon to ignore my narrative by default.
I can’t say that I use Aeon every day like I thought I would, but I can say for certain that it has become an integral part of my writing workflow to the point that I, not only think the purchase was worth it but don’t even resent the update subscription model.
I am however shocked that there’s not an open-source version of this application that is viable and useable in the same way. I’m also shocked that most of these tools haven’t found their way into Scrivener. I know that ‘Literature and Latte’ have Scapple, which is great mind-mapping software but even that doesn’t integrate into Scrivener in a useful way. If anything, the integration that Aeon offers is better than Scapple, so much so, I don’t even load scapple anymore, not really. I can see it will be useful at the very start of my idea’s phase for a project, where its free-flowing would be of benefit but as soon as I add any structure at all, Aeon is the way to go.
If people right now asked me what tools they need to start writing, I would have two sets of answers.
For those dipping a to in: Look at Word online, maybe get an office365 sub if you have the spare scratch. You should make use of cloud syncing and have one file per chapter. You should also install Grammarly, the free tear is excellent. Also, take a look at one-note it’s a great place to jot down ideas and images for the early phases of a project.
For those who want a more robust workflow: Get Scrivener, learn to use it. Use it. Don’t mess about. It’s basically perfect for writing. – If you have a lot of world-building in your work then Aeon is essential for replacing that pile of notebooks you have. If you can, sync it with one note. Back it up in Dropbox. The free tears of both cloud services will be big enough for a writer’s first decade, easy.
What’s your workflow Hex: I write in Word a lot more than I should because I use android for writing a lot more than I probably should. I also make use of one-note for the 3 am wake-up-and-write sessions. I then take my first draft and go the rest of the way in scrivener because, well. It’s the right tool for the job. At this point, ALL of my lore tracking and timelining is done in Aeon. I don’t even look at other tools now.